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Get­ting the dish on At­lanta drag

GA Voice - - FRONT PAGE - By PA­TRICK SAUN­DERS

Drag comes in many forms and you can catch any type on al­most any given night in At­lanta. But we wanted to take a look be­hind the makeup and the wigs, be­hind the fa­cial hair and the bind­ing.

So we posed the same ques­tions to six dif­fer­ent kings and queens across the city, some new on the scene, oth­ers who’ve reached drag leg­end sta­tus. What was the first song they per­formed? What have they learned about them­selves as per­form­ers? What are the big­gest mis­con­cep­tions? What’s the most money they made in one night? How long does it take them to get dressed? How much longer do they want to per­form?

So take a look at some pro­files in At­lanta drag, fol­lowed by a list­ing of where to catch these and other kings and queens through­out the city on any given night.

You can’t talk about At­lanta’s drag scene with­out talk­ing about Mr. Char­lie Brown. The Back­street leg­end and Nashville na­tive is still go­ing strong at 65, do­ing two shows on Fri­day and three on Satur­day ev­ery week at Lips. Find out about the old days, the new days and why he’s not stop­ping any­time soon.

How old were you when you first dressed in drag?

About 21, when I was old enough to get into the bars. I started out as the male lead, I did the male parts in pro­duc­tions in duets. And then I trans­ferred over from there.

How old were you when you first per­formed pub­licly in drag?

Same age, 21.

What song did you do at your first per­for­mance?

“Maybe” by The Three De­grees. It was a big num­ber for me.

What have you learned about your­self as a per­former since then?

I truly en­joy en­ter­tain­ing. My drag moth­ers taught me early that the day you think you’re a star you’ll never be one. And ev­ery time you walk on stage you have to prove to those who’ve heard of you why you’re there and to im­press the ones that haven’t heard of you.

What’s your fa­vorite thing about be­ing a drag per­former?

Get­ting it all on and ready to go to work. That’s all I’ve done all my life ever since I was 21 so I truly en­joy the en­ter­tain­ment part of it. I en­joy the trans­for­ma­tion of go­ing from a fat bald man to what I think is a lovely old woman [LAUGHS].

Has your be­ing a drag per­former had a neg­a­tive ef­fect on your dat­ing life? If so, how?

I’ve been with my lover since 1977. I met him in the bars. I met him in drag. The next night he met me out of makeup and we fell in love. It didn’t bother him ei­ther way, he liked me as a man or a woman. He pre­ferred me as a woman on­stage but as a man at home.

What’s the big­gest mis­con­cep­tion about be­ing a drag per­former?

A lot of peo­ple think that we all live in drag 24/7 and I have thor­oughly en­joyed my life as a man and thor­oughly en­joyed my ca­reer as a

woman, so I’ve had the best of both worlds.

Have you ever been ha­rassed or phys­i­cally as­saulted for be­ing a drag per­former? If so, what hap­pened?

Not in the lat­ter years. When I first started, when I was 21 we had to hide the fact that we did drag. We had to do our makeup in the clubs and hide the fact that we were bring­ing dresses and wigs in.

What’s the most money you ever made in one night per­form­ing?

Oh, Lord. I don’t know. I’ve made a $1000 in one night in tips. But that, my friend, is a once in a life­time thing and it was many years ago too [LAUGHS].

How long does it take you to get dressed and get ready for a per­for­mance?

From sit­ting down to walk­ing out the door, about an hour and 15 min­utes. That’s makeup, hose, bras, dresses, wigs, ev­ery­thing.

If you had to pick one, what would be your all-time fa­vorite song to per­form?

Prob­a­bly Whit­ney Hous­ton’s “I Will Al­ways Love You” just be­cause ev­ery­body’s al­ways given me so much love over the years and that would be ap­pro­pri­ate to thank them for all the love they’ve given me.

Rate At­lanta’s drag scene on a scale of 1 to 10.

At­lanta’s has al­ways been rated as one of the top fe­male im­per­son­ation cities in the coun­try. Our en­ter­tain­ers look like a woman here more than any­where else be­cause our cus­tomers have de­manded the per­fec­tion of it. That’s a 10.

How much longer do you want to be a drag per­former?

Well I’ll be 66 this year. I can do it as long as I can run my dirty mouth, they love my dirty mouth [LAUGHS].

Chase Daniels

Chase Daniels has re­tired from per­form­ing, but has stayed busy em­cee­ing shows on Fri­days and Satur­days at My Sis­ter’s Room with Jami ATL—the pair may be bet­ter known as MSR co-own­ers and wives Jen­nifer Maguire and Jami Siden. See what Daniels had to say about At­lanta’s drag scene and check out MSR’s new lo­ca­tion in Midtown.

How old were you when you first dressed in drag?

Maybe 8 years old.

How old were you when you first per­formed pub­licly in drag?

MSR in De­catur about 10 years ago.

Do you re­mem­ber the song you did at the first per­for­mance?

[Kanye West’s] “Gold Dig­ger” mixed with “Beep” by The Pussy­cat Dolls. It was a duet with my drag mother Jade Daniels and late friend Dee Scott!

What was the hard­est thing about be­ing a drag per­former?

Get­ting the same re­spect as our other fel­low per­form­ers such as queens. It’s tough to get gigs at other venues and get equal pay as a drag kings ver­sus drag queens. That’s why my wife Jami At­lanta and I try to have a venue where per­form­ers re­ceive equal pay. From femme girls and bur­lesque to kings and queens, all are in­cluded and equally re­spected.

Did your be­ing a drag per­former ever have a neg­a­tive ef­fect on your dat­ing life? If so, how?

No be­cause I mar­ried her, but I can see where it would be a prob­lem for some folks who may not want to be in the nightlife scene all the time. You have to date some­one that sup­ports what you love to do on the side or if it’s a full-time job.

What was the big­gest mis­con­cep­tion about be­ing a drag per­former?

That you iden­tify as the op­po­site gen­der all the time.

How long does it take you to get dressed and get ready to em­cee as Chase Daniels?

About an hour.

What are your fa­vorite places to shop for drag clothes/ac­ces­sories?

Thrift stores.

If you had to pick one, what would be your all-time fa­vorite song to per­form?

“Un­der Pres­sure” by Queen.

Rate At­lanta’s drag scene on a scale of 1 to 10.

8. There’s lots of tal­ent but I would love to see more kings, bur­lesque and femme per­form­ers

Diamond Lil

Diamond Lil has been a drag per­former in At­lanta since be­fore Stonewall and if you run into her at Pride or the SAGE Cen­ter or any num­ber of places around town, she’ll be sure to try and sell you her CD of orig­i­nal songs. We check in with her as she talks about tak­ing eight hours to get ready and con­tem­plat­ing re­tire­ment.

Where were you born?

The old­est set­tled city in Ge­or­gia: Sa­van­nah.

Do you have a day job?

I’m a re­tired an­tique dealer.

How old were you when you first dressed in drag?

Five years old in Sa­van­nah.

How old were you when you first per­formed pub­licly in drag?

18.

Do you re­mem­ber the song you did at the first per­for­mance?

“Three Letters” by Ruth Brown. I tore up three letters in front of the au­di­ence.

What have you learned about your­self as a per­former since then?

There comes a time when it’s time to hang up your skirts.

Have you ever been ha­rassed or phys­i­cally as­saulted for be­ing a drag per­former? If so, what hap­pened?

Walk­ing down the street go­ing to a party in Sa­van­nah I was ar­rested for loi­ter­ing.

How long does it take you to get dressed and get ready for a per­for­mance?

Eight long hours.

What are your fa­vorite places to shop for drag clothes/ac­ces­sories?

The Lost-N-Found Thrift Store.

If you had to pick one, what would be your all-time fa­vorite song to per­form?

My orig­i­nal song “Cab­bage­town Katie.”

Rate At­lanta’s drag scene on a scale of 1 to 10.

Poor be­cause all the stages have dis­ap­peared.

How much longer do you want to be a drag per­former?

I’m now con­sid­er­ing re­tire­ment like Rachel Wells.

Evah De­struc­tion

The reign­ing Best Drag Queen (as voted on by Ge­or­gia Voice read­ers) is one of the young guns mak­ing a lot of noise on the scene. The Texas na­tive talks about her first show, how be­ing a drag queen has af­fected her dat­ing life and how the com­pe­ti­tion be­tween queens in At­lanta is “vi­cious.”

Do you have a day job?

No! I am a full time en­ter­tainer, which I love. Not a lot of peo­ple can say they do what they love for a liv­ing these days, so I’m very thank­ful.

How old were you when you first dressed in drag?

I was 18 years old, off to a cos­tume party in what I thought was a Ke$ha il­lu­sion that was turn­ing the party [LAUGHS], nope.

How old were you when you first per­formed pub­licly in drag?

18 [LAUGHS]. It was af­ter Hal­loween and I re­al­ized, “Oh hey this is fun,” so I got my­self to­gether for my first per­for­mance at LeBuzz for a tal­ent night they were do­ing.

Do you re­mem­ber the song you did at the first per­for­mance?

So orig­i­nal, “Bad Ro­mance” by Lady Gaga.

What’s the hard­est thing about be­ing a

drag per­former?

The con­stant com­pet­ing be­tween the queens in At­lanta, this city is lit­er­ally vi­cious. Help is re­ally hard to come by, be­cause no one “wants any­one to be bet­ter than them.”

Has your be­ing a drag per­former had a neg­a­tive ef­fect on your dat­ing life? If so, how?

At first yeah, be­cause there’s al­ways this stigma with drag queens in the com­mu­nity among so many oth­ers in gen­eral. Peo­ple think we’re al­ways di­vas, or want to be women au­to­mat­i­cally. It was al­ways an­noy­ing. Plus there was al­ways one guy that be­came ob­sessed with the idea of me be­ing a drag queen; so then he wanted to try it, and have me put him in drag. Not my cup of tea.

What’s the big­gest mis­con­cep­tion about be­ing a drag per­former?

As I said be­fore with the dat­ing thing ba­si­cally. Also peo­ple seem to think drag is cheap … which … it’s not. At. All. So don’t treat us that way.

How long does it take you to get dressed and get ready for a per­for­mance?

Usu­ally an hour and a half.

If you had to pick one, what would be your all-time fa­vorite song to per­form?

“That Laugh­ing Track” by Crook­ers, hands down.

Rate At­lanta’s drag scene on a scale of 1 to 10.

7.5. It’s one of the drag cap­i­tals in this freak­ing coun­try. I gave it a 7.5, be­cause as good as it is here (no re­ally At­lanta drag is amaz­ing), there’s a lot of fine tun­ing that can be done be­hind the scenes. Just say­ing.

Jor­dan Michaels McCord

Jor­dan Michaels McCord hasn’t won Best Drag King at Ge­or­gia Voice’s Best of At­lanta awards for noth­ing. While this killer king (who is bet­ter known as Tif­fany Phillips in the day­light hours) got a late start to the drag scene, he’s more than made up for it. Check out the At­lanta na­tive at MSR and see what he has to say about the scene be­low.

What’s your day job?

I am an an­i­mal cru­elty in­ves­ti­ga­tor for a metro po­lice depart­ment.

How old were you when you first dressed in drag?

I’ve al­ways been “tomboy­ish.” From grade school on I’ve been a blue jeans and base­ball cap kinda girl. But of­fi­cially dress­ing up like a guy with fa­cial hair and bind­ing my chest? 2007.

Do you re­mem­ber the song you did at the first per­for­mance?

One of the first songs I did was The Char­lie Daniels Band, “The Devil Went Down To Ge­or­gia.” It was at a coun­try theme night com­pe­ti­tion at My Sis­ter’s Room.

What have you learned about your­self as a per­former since then?

I’ve learned what it takes to en­ter­tain a crowd, how im­por­tant it is to know all of your words to the songs and that the more bling, the bet­ter the cos­tume!

What’s your fa­vorite thing about be­ing a drag per­former?

I love when peo­ple come up to me af­ter a show and tell me how much they en­joyed the per­for­mance. I also love all of the up-and-com­ing drag per­form­ers that tell me I have inspired them to work harder on their per­for­mances.

Has your be­ing a drag per­former had a neg­a­tive ef­fect on your dat­ing life? If so, how?

Well ac­tu­ally, my last re­la­tion­ship did suf­fer a lit­tle be­cause of it. I got in trou­ble for not spend­ing enough time with her. My cur­rent part­ner luck­ily man­ages the res­tau­rant at My Sis­ter’s Room, so she is there a lot. It works out.

What’s the big­gest mis­con­cep­tion about be­ing a drag per­former?

That I dress like that all the time, or that I’m tran­si­tion­ing to be a guy. Some peo­ple think that it’s my full-time job.

Have you ever been ha­rassed or phys­i­cally as­saulted for be­ing a drag per­former? If so, what hap­pened?

The only thing I can think of is the time I per­formed “Bombs over Bagh­dad “by Outkast and a pa­tron in the crowd didn’t think my Ara­bic cos­tume was funny. It was Hal­loween and I did have a fake bomb strapped to my chest.

What’s the most you ever made in one night per­form­ing?

In ones, prob­a­bly like $150. Which I thought was great! And that didn’t in­clude my book­ing pay. My son asked if I was a strip­per when I was count­ing it the next day.

How long does it take you to get dressed

and get ready for a per­for­mance?

Not su­per long, like a good 30 to 45 min­utes. I wear makeup, but it doesn’t take as long as some of the queens I know. Bind­ing my chest is usu­ally done be­fore I get there to save a lit­tle time.

If you had to pick one, what would be your all-time fa­vorite song to per­form?

Pick­ing one is hard. El­ton is the man, and Prince is such an en­ter­tainer! But right now, I’m lov­ing some Ed Sheeran. His acous­tic ver­sion of Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen” is awe­some!

Rate At­lanta’s drag scene on a scale of 1 to 10.

I would def­i­nitely give At­lanta a 10! I think you can go all over At­lanta and en­joy a dif­fer­ent va­ri­ety of drag shows! Din­ner, Sun­day brunch, late night, campy drag, drag pageants, queens, kings, trans, femme, bur­lesque. If you’re look­ing for it, At­lanta has it. I just wish drag kings would get a lit­tle more recog­ni­tion. We have some great kings in the ATL!

Shawnna Brooks

If you’re mak­ing a Mount Rush­more of At­lanta drag queens, you bet­ter make room for Shawnna Brooks. And if you think Ms. Brooks has slowed down, think again. You can catch her at Burkhart’s on Satur­days and at Blake’s on the Park on Thurs­days, Fri­days and Sun­days.

Where were you born?

On the planet Mars [LAUGHS]. No, Bal­ti­more, Mary­land.

How old were you when you first dressed in drag?

Five years old, on Hal­loween. I was Cat­woman.

How old were you when you first per­formed pub­licly in drag?

I did a tal­ent show in Fayet­teville, North Carolina. And that’s how I got hooked on it. I was 18.

Do you re­mem­ber the song you did at the first per­for­mance?

I think it was “Eaten Alive” by Diana Ross. The ap­plause, the crowd, the adren­a­line of just be­ing on stage was what I loved.

What’s the hard­est thing about be­ing a drag per­former?

Los­ing dear friends over the years that you’ve known and worked with. I have so many, you don’t have enough time. I miss those kids a lot.

What’s your fa­vorite thing about be­ing a drag per­former?

See­ing some­one who’s had a bad day and you see them smile, and they for­get about all their prob­lems and just have a good time.

What’s the big­gest mis­con­cep­tion about be­ing a drag per­former?

That we don’t have lives out­side of the bar. A lot of peo­ple think that’s all we do is the bar. And we do have feel­ings.

What’s the most you ever made in one night per­form­ing?

Last year some­body tipped a lit­tle over $800 for one num­ber. That was one num­ber. They just gave it to me in fifties when I was on­stage.

How long does it take you to get dressed and get ready for a per­for­mance?

20 min­utes. I’ve been do­ing it a long time honey, there’s no rea­son it should take you three hours if you’ve been do­ing it for 20 years. Some­times 10 [min­utes] if I’m in a rush. For some peo­ple it takes hours.

If you had to pick one, what would be your all-time fa­vorite song to per­form?

I would have to say any­thing by Deb­o­rah Cox. I have so many sweetie, I have a med­ley of her stuff that I do that’s al­ways a crowd­pleaser, no mat­ter what crowd.

Rate At­lanta’s drag scene on a scale of 1 to 10.

6. And the rea­son why is be­cause nowa­days they’re let­ting any­body per­form. You don’t have to have cos­tumes, you don’t have to ba­si­cally put any­thing into it. They’ll let any­body go on­stage.

How much longer do you want to be a drag per­former?

Un­til I lose the ex­cite­ment of hear­ing my mu­sic and then walk­ing out on­stage. When you stop get­ting ner­vous, when you stop get­ting ex­cited, that’s when it’s time to give it up.

PHOTO BY TOBY, WWW.JUSTTOBY.ME

EVAH DE­STRUC­TION

(Photo via Face­book)

Char­lie Brown

(File photo)

Diamond Lil

(File photo)

Chase Daniels

(Photo via Face­book)

Evah De­struc­tion

(File photo)

Jor­dan Michaels McCord

(Photo via Face­book)

Shawnna Brooks

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